Volcano Erupts On La Reunion island

A volcano on La Reunion in the Indian ocean has erupted for the second time this year.

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Piton de la Fournaise or “Peak of the Furnace” is one of the most active volcanoes in the world with more than 150 eruptions since the 17th century.

The latest eruption which began early on Sunday morning, is in an uninhabited area of the island and presents no danger to the local population.

Lava Lake Visible Atop Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano

The U.S. Geological Survey says a lake of lava has come into view atop Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, and a burst of seismic activity has shaken the summit in recent days.

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It’s the first time the lava lake has been visible since May 2015. It deflated Saturday, but it was expected to inflate again Sunday.
At least one earthquake was felt along with several smaller events, according to the Geological Survey.

Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. A current lava flow into the Pacific Ocean has drawn thousands of visitors from around the world to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

5.9-Magnitude Earthquake Shakes Northern Tanzania, Killing at Least 11

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake has left at least 11 dead in the Lake Victoria region of northern Tanzania on Saturday.

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According to the Associated Press, the country’s president, John Magufuli, said that many had been killed by the quake that struck at 3:27 p.m. local time.

Magufuli said he was “shocked by reports of the earthquake that caused the death of many people, injury to others and destruction of property,” according to the press release issued by the president’s office.

Regional police commander Augustine Olomi said most of the deaths occurred in brick structures in the town of Bukoba. Photos posted to social media show significant damage in the city of 70,000, according to the BBC.

“This incident has caused a lot of damage,” Deodatus Kinawila, the district commissioner of Bukoba, told the BBC. He later said the “situation is calm and under control.”

The quake, which was considered shallow at a depth of 25 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey and was reportedly felt as far away as western Kenya, parts of Uganda and in Kigali, Rwanda.

Super Typhoon Meranti Rapidly Intensifies; Dangerous Threat to Taiwan, China and Northern Philippines Early This Week

Meranti is now a super typhoon after rapidly intensifying into the equivalent of a strong Category 4 in the western Pacific Ocean.

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Parts of Taiwan, the northern Philippines and southeastern China will see impacts from this dangerous typhoon over the next few days.

Latest Status and Forecast

As of Monday morning (EDT), Meranti was centered more than 600 miles southeast of Taipei, Taiwan.

Meranti is being steered to the west-northwest along the southwest periphery of an upper-level high pressure system that is located to its north.

The typhoon has undergone rapid intensification, which means maximum sustained winds increased by at least 30 knots (about 35 mph) in 24 hours or less. According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), Meranti’s winds had increased from 80 mph to 130 mph in the 18 hours Sunday 5 a.m. EDT – 11 p.m. EDT.

As of Monday morning (EDT), the JTWC said that Meranti had become a super typhoon, which is when maximum sustained winds reach 150 mph or greater.

Factors leading to the rapid strengthening include low wind shear and warm ocean temperatures.

Taiwan, China and Northern Philippines Should Monitor Closely

Although there is uncertainty in the forecast track, all interests in Taiwan, the northern Philippines and southeastern China should monitor Meranti’s progress and take appropriate action if needed.

In some ways, the forecast track for Meranti resembles the one Nepartak took in early July. Nepartak made landfall as a super typhoon (winds 150 mph or greater) near Taitung City in southeastern Taiwan as a Category 4 equivalent. It then moved into southeast China as a tropical storm.

Here’s a general timing of when Meranti’s impacts may arrive and what they may be. Keep in mind, however, that all of this will be highly dependent on the ultimate track that Meranti takes.

Taiwan : Timing: Meranti’s worst potential impacts would be Wednesday, local time (Tuesday night – early Wednesday U.S. time…Taiwan is 12 hours ahead of U.S. EDT).

Possible impacts: Damaging winds, flooding rain, mudslides and storm surge flooding in areas that are prone.
Uncertainty: Meranti’s exact path in relation to Taiwan will dictate the severity of any wind impacts. If Meranti moves along the southern portion of the forecast path, this may keep the strongest winds near the eye just offshore from southern Taiwan, but heavy rain and flooding would still be major concerns. In addition, heavy surf and coastal flooding would be threats.

Northern Philippines :Timing: At the moment, the core of Meranti is forecast to pass north of the northern Philippines Luzon Island on Tuesday, local time. Meranti is known as Ferdie in the Philippines.

Possible Impacts: The Batanes and Babuyan islands are the most likely areas to see damaging winds and heavy rainfall depending on Meranti’s path. Far northern Luzon Island could also be brushed with heavy rain and strong winds, particularly if Meranti takes a more southern path.

China : Timing: Meranti is forecast to move into southeastern China late Wednesday into Thursday, local time. Areas from Hong Kong northward along the coast should monitor the progress of Meranti closely.

Possible Impacts: Potential threats in eastern China will greatly depend on how much the mountainous terrain of Taiwan disrupts the typhoon. At the very least, heavy rainfall can be expected, which may result in flooding. Damaging winds and storm surge flooding will also be potential threats.

Rainfall Forecast

Parts of Taiwan, particularly the southern and eastern sides of the island, could pick up over 12 inches of rain as Meranti passes near or just south of the island. Higher elevation locations will likely see the greatest rain amounts.

The heavy rainfall will then spread northward into southeastern China, with over 5 inches of rain possible along the coast.

Due to these copious amounts of rain, flooding and mudslides are both major concerns in Taiwan and southeastern China.

Another Typhoon After Meranti?

Well to the east of Meranti is another system that is developing in the western Pacific.

It could also threaten parts of east Asia later this week, possibly as a typhoon. The next named storm in the west Pacific would be Rai.

The latest forecast track for this potential typhoon curls it northeast into Japan’s Ryukyu Islands late this week. All interests there, including in Okinawa, should monitor this system closely the next several days.

Eventually this system could impact southern mainland Japan next weekend.

Tropical Storm Orlene Rapidly Strengthening Into Hurricane

Tropical storm Orlene has emerged in the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles southwest of Mexico and is rapidly strengthening.

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The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Orlene emerged from a tropical depression early Sunday and is centered about 700 miles (1,125 kilometers) southwest of the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico. The storm has top sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) and is moving toward the northwest at 9 mph (15 kph).

An advisory issued late Sunday says Orlene is rapidly strengthening and is expected to become a hurricane by late Monday. Forecasters say the storm posed no threat to land early Sunday and that no coastal watches or warnings are in effect.

Measuring Forces In The DNA Molecule

DNA, our genetic material, normally has the structure of a twisted rope ladder. Experts call this structure a double helix. Among other things, it is stabilized by stacking forces between base pairs. Scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have succeeded at measuring these forces for the very first time on the level of single base pairs. This new knowledge could help to construct precise molecular machines out of DNA.

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Over 60 years ago, the researchers Crick and Watson identified the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, which is more commonly known as DNA. They compared the double helix to a rope ladder that had been twisted into a spiral. The rungs of this ladder consisted of guanine/cytosine and thymine/adenine base pairs. But what keeps the DNA strands in that spiral structure?

Special measuring system for molecular interactions

Prof. Hendrik Dietz from the Chair of Experimental Biophysics uses DNA as construction material to create molecular structures. Hence, he is greatly interested in gaining a better understanding of this material. “There are two types of interactions which stabilize double helices,” he explains. For one, DNA contains hydrogen bonds.

For another, there are what experts call base pair stacking forces, which act between the stacked base pairs along the spiral axis. The forces of the hydrogen bonds, on the other hand, act perpendicular to the axis. “So far, it is not quite clear to which extent these two forces each contribute to the overall stability of the DNA double helix,” explains Dietz.

Directly measuring the weak stacking forces between base pairs was a big technical challenge for the researchers, who worked on the problem for six years. In collaboration with the TUM Chair of Molecular Biophysics (Prof. Matthias Rief) and the TUM Chair of Theoretical Biophysics — Biomolecular Dynamics (Prof. Martin Zacharias), they succeeded in developing a special experimental setup that now makes it possible to measure extremely weak contact interactions between individual molecules.

A trillionth of a bar of chocolate

To put it simply, the measurement system is designed hierarchically and involves microscopic beams, at the tips of which one or more double helix structures running in parallel are located. These have been modified such that each end carries one base pair. Two of these microscopic beams are connected with a flexible polymer. On the other side, the beams are coupled to microscopic spheres which can be pulled apart using optical laser tweezers. In solution, the base pairs on the end of one of the beam can now interact with the base pairs on the end of the other beam. This also makes it possible to measure how long a stacking bond between them lasts before they fall apart again, as well as the force acting between the base pairs.

The forces measured by the researchers were in the range of piconewtons. “A newton is the weight of a bar of chocolate,” explains Dietz. “What we have here is a thousandth of a billionth of that, which is practically nothing.” Forces in the range of two piconewtons are sufficient to separate the bond created by stacking forces.

Furthermore, the scientists also observed that the bonds spontaneously broke up and formed again within just a few milliseconds. The strength and the lifetime of the interactions depends to a great extent on which base pairs are stacked on each other.

Creating DNA machines

The results of the measurements may help to better understand mechanical aspects of fundamental biological processes such as DNA replication, i.e. the reproduction of genetic material. For example, the short life of the stacking interactions could mean that an enzyme tasked with separating the base pairs during this process just needs to wait for the stacking bonds break up on their own — instead of having to apply force to separate them.

However, Dietz also intends to apply the data directly to his current research: He uses DNA as programmable building material to construct machines on the order of nanometers. When doing so, he draws inspiration from the complex structures which can e.g. be found in cells and, among other things, serve as molecular “factories” to synthesize important compounds such as ATP, which stores energy. “We now know what would be possible if we could just build structures that were sufficiently sophisticated,” says Dietz. “Naturally, when we have a better understanding of the properties of the molecular interactions, we are better able to work with these molecules.”

At the moment, the lab is building a molecular rotational motor out of DNA, the components of which interlock and are held together via stacking forces. The goal is to be able to control a directed rotation via chemical or thermal stimuli. To do so, the timing of the movement of the rotor in the stator is crucial, and this task has now been made significantly easier with the new findings on the stacking forces.

Earthquakes Can Trigger Near-Instantaneous Aftershocks On Different Faults

According to a new study by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, a large earthquake on one fault can trigger large aftershocks on separate faults within just a few minutes. These findings have important implications for earthquake hazard prone regions like California where ruptures on complex fault systems may cascade and lead to mega-earthquakes.

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In the study, published in the Sept. 9 issue of the journal Science, Scripps geophysicist Peter Shearer and Scripps graduate student Wenyuan Fan discovered 48 previously unidentified large aftershocks from 2004 to 2015 that occurred within seconds to minutes after magnitude 7 to 8 earthquakes on faults adjacent to the mainshock ruptures.

In one instance along the Sundra arc subduction zone, where the magnitude 9 Sumatra-Andaman mega-earthquake occurred off the coast of Indonesia in 2004, a magnitude 7 quake triggered two large aftershocks over 200 kilometers (124 miles) away. These aftershocks miles away reveal that stress can be transferred almost instantaneously by the passing seismic waves from one fault to another within the earthquake fault system.

“The results are particularly important because of their seismic hazard implications for complex fault systems, like California,” said Fan, the lead author of the study. “By studying this type of triggering, we might be able to forecast hosting faults for large earthquakes.”

Large earthquakes often cause aftershock sequences that can last for months. Scientists generally believe that most aftershocks are triggered by stress changes caused by the permanent movement of the fault during the main seismic event, and mainly occur near the mainshock rupture where these stress changes are largest. The new findings show that large early aftershocks can also be triggered by seismic wave transients, where the locations of the main quake and the aftershock may not be directly connected.

“Multiple fault system interactions are not fully considered in seismic hazard analyses, and this study might motivate future modeling efforts to account for these effects,” said Shearer, the senior author of the study.